Clouds vs. The Apology
In Aristophanes' Clouds and in Plato's Apology we see extensive fictional representations of the historical figure, Socrates, who left us no literary works under his own name. When comparing these two representations, readers often assume, as a result of the nature of the comedic genre, that Aristophanes' portrayal of Socrates is exaggerated and fallacious. On the other hand, Plato's account is often taken more seriously as a result of the philosophical genre and the respected reputation Plato has as wildly influential thinker in Western culture. Nevertheless, there are more congruencies between the two representations than one would initially think. I'll discuss some similarities between the two works that gives specific portrayals of the mystery that is Socrates.
First and foremost, I must point out the obvious but main difference between these two works; Plato's Apology is a philosophical dialogue while Aristophanes's Clouds is a comedy. For this reason, we can say that purpose of each is very is different. The first is a work of serious philosophy while the second is a work of entertainment intended to make people laugh, usually by poking fun at people. Second, in terms of characterization, Plato paints a picture of Socrates, as a philosopher to the end, that is, a person who truly lives a life of the pursuit of truth. In addition, Plato's view of Socrates is filled with courage, a person who is unafraid of death. In the work, a number of citizens from Athens accuse him of corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods. Of course, Socrates disagrees. In fact, Socrates states that he is doing the city of Athens a great benefit by questioning things. In light of this, Plato portrays Socrates as one who is persecuted unjustly.
In Aristophanes's Clouds, Socrates is seen as the worst kind of sophist; he is the head of the Thinkery. Aristophanes says that Socrates is the one who can make the weaker argument stronger and the stronger argument weaker. He is not seen as a student of philosophy and truth, but a confused thinker whose feet never touch the ground. In “Clouds,” by Aristophanes, and “Apology,” by Plato, Socrates is portrayed in completely different ways. In “Clouds,” Aristophanes attempts to ridicule Socrates and his followers, the Sophists. In his play, Aristophanes demonstrates that Socrates is corrupting the young men of Athens, and he uses satire to exaggerate many of the teachings brought forth by Socrates. Plato, who was a dedicated follower of Socrates, painted his mentor in a very positive light. Although most of the “apology” is actually a speech given by Socrates, we can assume that Plato had an interest to spin the story in a way that would favor Socrates, and the depiction was radically different from that of Aristophanes. In both works, excellent arguments and points attempt to prove the character and moral integrity of Socrates.
In Clouds Aristophanes attempted to ridicule Socrates and his followers with satire, and the work was never meant to be taken as a serious representation of his life. It was, however, a strong political statement, and it influenced and encouraged the public of Athens to sentence Socrates to death. In “Apology,” Plato writes the speech given by Socrates and we can assume that it is not far from the truth. There is no satire in The Apology and it was intended as a speech to spare a person’s life rather than a play to inform and entertain. Aristophanes describes the “Thinkery,” which young men join in order to get an alternative education. This “Thinkery” is radically different from a traditional Athenian school. Socrates, who is in charge of the school, encourages his students to look differently upon the world. Socrates suggests that the Gods do not exist, and he teaches his followers to be materialistic and corrupt instead of honest and humble. Strepsiades, who is the main character in the play, decides that he can avoid paying his debts...
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